The Blitzboks would have returned from the Olympics a few days ago if it had not been postponed. Now it is their main focus.
The Springbok Sevens squad reported to their base at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS) this week, amid strict Covid-19 hygiene as well as Return To Training (RTT) protocols.
All but those who have contracts with the various rugby franchises regrouped in Stellenbosch. Players like Werner Kok who signed with The Sharks, Rosko Specman who is with the Bulls and Kurt-Lee Arendse (on loan to the Bulls) did not report as they are busy preparing for Super Rugby and the Currie Cup respectively. Dylan Sage was also absent as he is currently in France where he will be plying his trade.
Coach Neil Powell, who met with his management group a week before the players arrived, said that with the opening two tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series cancelled for this year, the team has placed the Tokyo Olympics as their ultimate goal.
The Tokyo Games was postponed from 2020 because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and has been pencilled-in from July 23 to August 8, 2021.
“We would have returned from the Olympics a few days ago if it had not been postponed, so it’s easy to remind ourselves that it’s unfinished business,” Powell explained during the management team’s planning.
“We have again penciled that in as part of the planning for the next season, as that is one of the few confirmed dates available. One thing we have on our side for now is time, and we restarted this week with that in mind.”
Captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi was clearly happy to be back in training in a familiar space, commenting that the return of all the many smiling faces was a boost to the squad after being in lockdown for so long.
“It is really good to see my teammates again, although some only from a distance,” said Soyizwapi.
The players underwent Covid-19 screening and testing on Tuesday in line with SA Rugby’s return-to-training protocols, while the team’s medical staff also assessed the players’ physical and mental well-being. Strength and conditioning training commenced on Wednesday.
Adhering to the safety protocols, the Blitzboks are working in groups of five and will continue to do so while the RTT protocols are in place. Contact training is prohibited for now.
Soyizwapi added: “We are adhering to the relevant guidelines and social distancing, and we all realise the importance of staying healthy in these opening weeks and making sure we do our bit with regards to the protocols.
“There is some time to go before we will play our first match, but just to be back with the group and to start training again is a wonderful opportunity for us to get the season going.”